Article: Defensive Driving Rule #60: Use the Center Lane for Safety
I have to disagree with this one. As a tractor-trailer driver, in many states trucks cannot drive or pass in the left lane of a 3 or more lane highway. Many drivers just "cruise" in the middle lane, they will not move over when you flash the headlights and usually a driver has to wait untill there is a large enough opening to pass them on the right. (which is also illeagal in some states).
Try the UK !!
Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !
Here in the UK we call them "middle laners" and they are about as popular as the tax man or parking ticket attendant when it comes to a debate. Here in the UK it is illegal to "undertake" in any situation other than when the traffic is tailed back in a queue and your lane is moving [albeit slowly]. This is one of the most frustrating things on our roads as you get 1 car in the middle lane, a line of trucks behind it who can not pass either side and all other "slower cars" moving across into the overtaking lane causing brake lights to go on and tail backs all while the nearside lane is empty !!!!
Unfortunately this is not a rare occurrence, more the normal in fact, and although there is nothing to back this up I am quite sure that this behaviour causes more accidents on our Motorways than drivers slightly over the speed limit and should become a law enforced issue.
I also disagree with this rule for many reasons:
- Maybe it's safer not to make many lane changes, but it allows frustrated and raging blocked drivers to pass you on your RIGHT side which i think more dangerous than changing lanes (where you control the situation and not the other driver).
- It CREATES the habit of NOT changing lanes (almost at all), and NOT looking into mirrors. Most of middle-laners i see are lazy drivers that doesn't even notice they have tailgaters.
- As an engineer i think someone designed the road to have 3 or 4 lanes with a reason (not just for spending money) and using the center lane you are using two lanes instead of one (if people respect laws won't pass you on your right side, so right lane would be useless, and in a 3 lane freeway it means you use 66% of it!) reducing capacity and creating blockings when two vehicles faster than you approach from behind (specially if you are one of those lazy drivers that doesn't look your mirrors or are afraid of changing to right lane when you see this). Doesn't matter how fast you go, there's always someone going faster. When you go near speed limit, passings could last many hundreds of meters (and seconds), and it enlarges the chance of someone passing you is blocking the left lane for a while. Blocking the road this way creates rage on agressive drivers, and since they can't pass you, you are not getting rid of them, and that's a dangerous situation to make it last long.
- When there's not too much traffic you don't need to make too many lane changes if you stick to the right, and if there's lots of cars in the road, more the reason not to use two lanes instead of one. Don't be greedy, one lane is enough for you to drive safe, and you have to respect other drivers' right to use the road.
Common Sense and Courtesy
Both those items go to the heart of defensive driving and just good driving in general. Unfortunately, both are in terribly short supply in America's roads. The tip here to use the middle lane, works best in urban conditions where there are many exits/entrances and lots of traffic. Through vehicles should NOT be riding in the right hand lane denying access to merging traffic. That is a simple courtesy. By the same token, in those few instances where there are three or more lanes in open country and interchanges are several miles apart, it is - as others have pointed out - extremely discourteous to hog the passing lanes when you are not passing another vehicle, and are in fact one of the slower cars on the road. The essence of good driving is not adhering to a hard and fast set of rules, but driving with common sense and courtesy.
As a safety engineer, I strongly disagree, especially with the "constantly changing speeds" part. It is much easier for other drivers to anticipate your actions if you maintain a constant speed. Changing speeds makes it much more difficult and dangerous for them to judge closure rates and to pass. That is half the battle: Don't do something other drivers aren't expecting.
Second, the reason it is either illegal (though rarely enforced) or not recommended to pass on the right is that it is much more difficult for the driver being passed to see the passing vehicle. Your entire vehicle (and perhaps a few passengers) block your view, and the mirror is farther away, making it difficult to judge closure rates, especially at night, and giving you a huge blind spot (depending on the vehicle). Vehicles WILL pass you on the right unless you travel well above the speed limit. The only option you give them is to move over TWO lanes to pass. Most won't bother.
Nowadays, with cell phones, GPS and other distractions, you also have the potential for disaster, due to a momentary distraction, by swerving either left OR right. At least in the right lane, you will usually have rumble strips to alert you or wake you up, as well as a break-down lane giving you room to recover.**
Also, in the middle lane of a 3 lane hwy, you are just a few feet removed from the irresponsible (and quite possibly impaired) drivers screaming along in the left lane and swerving as they chat, eat, move to the music or what have you. We all see them on just about every trip. Why not give them a wide berth? You will also avoid the state troopers screaming along without lights or siren when they are getting off shift.
And if you suddenly need to pull over on a highway (medical problem, mechanical failure, tire blowout, etc.) in the right lane it is much simpler to maneuver into the breakdown lane, rather than worry about traffic on both sides. In a worst-case situation, being in the right lane also makes it less likely your vehicle would be involved in the most deadly of all accident scenarios: crossing into oncoming traffic.
At night you will also get more tiring and distracting headlight glare (in side-view mirrors) in the center lane, if you are travelling at or near the speed limit. Rather than passing someone and leaving them directly behind you, with lights shrinking in intensity, you will have vehicles gaining on you from both sides, with long periods of light increasing in intensity. This can make a big difference in your alertness if you are driving for several hours (hello headache).
Yes, in heavy merge areas you might want to temporarily move over. But for the above reasons it is not a good idea to cruise in the center lane. Highways are designed for the way people actually drive, not a perfect world. And they are designed (in the U.S.) for passing traffic to move left, and other traffic to keep right. Your vehicle is also designed that way. All you need to remember is to KEEP RIGHT except when passing. Then the truckers will be your friend, rather than trying to give you a push from behind.
uh, how come no one just suggest that the people in the right lane going too fast should slow down. I agree that no one should be cruising at 50 in the fast lane, but it is pretty annoying to be in the fast lane doing just under 75 and look in my rear view mirror and see someone gaining on me quickly, and eventually pass me(after I move over) at close to 90. THAT is the danger on the highways, NOT the people doing the speed limit, or slightly above. Somehow the rules have been twisted and suddenly the law abiding citizen is the bad guy. I no longer drive in the left lane, and am constantly amazed at the speed people drive. Watch a few videos like this on you tube(should be required before someone gets on the road) and think about it next time you feel like you are in a hurry. People forget that a car is a weapon and do not take the act of getting behind a wheel, and all that is implies, very seriously.
and I meant people in the left lane going to fast, not right lane. sorry.